Mike Pence's "Old Russian Proverb" About Bears Appears To Be His Own Creation & Audiences Definitely Noticed
The vice presidential debate on Oct. 4 was, not too surprisingly, wild. During the 90-minute debate, candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence faced off on some of the biggest issues of the election, from policing to immigration to abortion, and kind of managed to stay focused. However, one subject that was mentioned in passing may have deserved a little more scrutiny: bears. During the debate, Pence referenced a Russian proverb about bears that doesn't seem to actually exist, prompting a lot of head scratching and online mockery.
During the discussion on foreign policy and the crisis in Syria, Pence used a supposedly well-known Russian saying to try to explain the country's approach to the Middle East. "There is an old proverb that says the Russian bear never dies, but hibernates," Pence said authoritatively. Yet upon investigation, the phrase doesn't seem to come up anywhere. In fact, many people took to Twitter to specifically refute the phrase's existence or use in Russian culture. "Mike Pence recalls an 'old proverb' that I've never heard of: 'The Russian bear never dies, it just hibernates.' Um, no," tweeted Christopher Miller, a European journalist who has worked in Russia and Ukraine for over five years.
According to Buzzfeed, a version of the "proverb" was found in only one other place — a 2014 interview from National Review with Pence himself. “History shows the Russian Bear’s ambitions never die, they just go into hibernation,” Pence told National Review reporter John Fund in reference to Russian president Vladimir Putin's controversial military actions in Ukraine at the time. The wording is a little different, but, given that the only other available incidence of the phrase is attributed to Pence, he seems to have reverse-plagiarized himself.
The internet had plenty of fun with Pence's mistake, particularly once the story was posted to social media. "Do politicians stretch the truth, make things up? Does a bear sh*t in the woods?" tweeted Australian journalist Karen Percy. The rhetorical error obviously isn't the most important part of the evening, but it's always fun to pick out these little gems from each debate. Although Pence probably just meant to lend more credence to his words by giving them a history, proper attribution of information in the future will help to avoid embarrassing incidents like this.